DBT in New Milford, CT

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Techniques, Strategies, and Protocols

DBT Group TherapyDialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Techniques, Strategies, and Protocols
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that teaches you skills to cope with difficult emotions. DBT was originally developed in the late 1980s by Marsha Linehan, a psychologist who was working with highly suicidal adults. Dialectical behavior therapy has since been adopted to treat other mental health conditions and is widely used in people living with depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, PTSD, self-harm, substance abuse, Bipolar and more. If you are struggling with a mental health condition, dialectical behavior therapy can help you learn strategies to lead a happier, more balanced life.

DBT Principles
The main goals of dialectical behavior therapy are to teach you how to live in the present, develop skills to cope with stress in a healthy manner, regulate your emotions, and improve your interpersonal relationships.

The core principle in DBT is one of dialects. The concept of dialectics says that everything is composed of opposing forces and that change occurs when there is a dialogue between opposites. The three basic assumptions in dialectics are:

  • Everything is interconnected
  • Change is inevitable
  • Opposites can be integrated to arrive at the truth

During DBT sessions, your therapist will work with you to resolve contradictions using this fundamental principle of dialectics. The theory is that some people react more intensely to emotional situations, such as those related to family or romantic relationships. Such people get emotionally aroused far more quickly than the average person and also take a considerable amount of time to return to baseline. Most people and their loved ones are not equipped to deal with these sudden, intense surges of emotion. Our licenced therapist teaches you DBT skills to do precisely this.

How Does DBT Compare to CBT ?

DBT is a subtype of Cognitive- Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Both types of therapy are talk therapy where your therapist helps you better understand your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. There is a significant overlap between DBT and CBT. However, as noted, DBT was originally developed as a treatment for borderline personality disorder which is characterized by dramatic mood swings that can have severe effects on relationships. Therefore, DBT is different from CBT in that it focuses more on the psychosocial aspects of treatment, i.e., managing emotions and relationships.

DBT Modules or Core Skills Dialectical behavior therapy teaches you four core skills, which are also called modules. These skills help you accept your thoughts and behaviors and work towards effectively changing them. You can think of these skills as the “active ingredients” that are critical for leading a happy, balanced life.

Core Mindfulness is a skill that teaches you to live in the moment. You learn to become aware of the present and pay attention to what is happening around you. This can help you fine-tune your senses and process your sensations, thoughts, feelings, and impulses without judgment. By developing mindfulness skills, you are better able to handle emotional upheavals. The strategies you learn during DBT sessions help you stay calm and focused without automatically engaging in negative thoughts and impulsive behavior during difficult situations.

Exercise: A simple core mindfulness exercise is focusing on your breath and paying attention to the sensation of inhaling and exhaling.

Distress tolerance is a skill that helps you in moments of crisis. You learn to accept yourself and your current situation and deal with it without causing self-harm. During DBT sessions, you learn four techniques for crisis management – improving the moment despite difficulties, distracting yourself until you’re calm enough to deal with the situation, soothing yourself to feel at peace, and rationally thinking of the pros and cons of a coping strategy. By developing distress tolerance skills, you are better able to cope with intense emotions and maintain a positive outlook.

Exercise: Allow intense emotions to flow through your body by distracting yourself with physical activity, for example, by going up and down stairs or walking around your neighborhood.

Interpersonal effectiveness is a skill that helps you manage intense emotions that make it hard to relate to others. You learn to become more assertive while still maintaining healthy relationships. During DBT sessions, you learn social skills, such as how to communicate more effectively and deal with challenging relationships while maintaining your self-respect and respect for others.

Exercise: In your communication with others, remember to be gentle and non-threatening, to develop good listening skills and show interest in others, to acknowledge other people’s feelings and thoughts, and to maintain an easy or light-hearted attitude.

Emotional regulation is a skill that helps you navigate powerful emotions more effectively before they can lead to a chain of harmful reactions. During DBT sessions, you learn to recognize and give names to intense emotions like anger and learn skills to cope with them. The result is that you are more mindful of your emotions and do not give in to emotional urges. This reduced emotional vulnerability allows you to have more positive emotional experiences in difficult life situations.

Exercise: Identify your emotions and do the opposite action. For instance, if you’re feeling angry and want to have it out with a friend, write in a journal instead.

" Remember, Sometimes Pain Can't Be Avoided, But Many Times Suffering Can"

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Techniques

Some of the techniques you learn during DBT include:
  • Accepting or coming to terms with your life circumstances
  • Analyzing problems and recognizing destructive behavior patterns
  • Changing beliefs and thoughts that are ineffective or unhelpful
  • Making positive changes in your behaviors and interactions with others
  • Learning to communicate and collaborate effectively with others
  • Developing new skills to enhance your ability to deal with difficult emotions
  • Recognizing your strengths and developing them further

How Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Work?

DBT is offered in a variety of therapeutic settings.

Individual therapy consists of a trained professional working with you on a one-on-one basis to teach you behavioral skills that are adapted to your unique life challenges. During the sessions, you’ll talk to your therapist about what you’re trying to manage and your therapist will help you build skills to deal with specific challenges. Your therapist will also regularly meet with a consultation team of mental health professionals to develop the best plan to help you navigate difficult and complex issues.

DBT phone coaching consists of telephone conversations between the therapist and you in between sessions for continued guidance on coping with difficult situations.

DBT skills group coaching is a particularly effective therapeutic setting. During these group therapy sessions, you learn behavioral skills through interactions with others and role-playing. DBT skills training is a weekly group that is much like a class that lasts 2-3 hours. You learn skills from one of the four core modules – mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. You are also asked to complete homework assignments and experiential exercises which serve as learning tools and support what you learned during the weekly DBT group lessons. Your group leader reviews each client’s diary individually and gives feedback and observations. As a member of a DBT group, you benefit not only from your therapist’s coaching but also by being exposed to the experiences of other group members, for example, how they are applying and practicing new skills.

What conditions can DBT help with?

Dialectical behavior therapy can be an effective treatment for a range of conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance use disorders. DBT is effective in people of all ages, gender identities, and sexual orientations.

Is DBT right for me?

If you are struggling with your mental health , dialectical behavior therapy may be right for you. Contact our Licensed DBT therapist for a free consultation to assess your symptoms, prior treatment history, and therapy goals to help you decide whether DBT will help you.

Learn New Skills With DBT

If you are looking for compassionate support to learn new skills and guidance navigating relationships or personal challenges, we can help. Please call 860.740.2228 for your free phone consultation to see how our DBT services can help you find solutions for healing.